Developing a genuinely multi-ethnic local church congregation
: an auto-ethnographic investigation into Greenford Baptist Church 1987-2014

  • David John Wise

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    From October 1987 until January 2015 I was a pastor at Greenford Baptist Church (GBC) in West London. During this time the church transitioned from being a White British congregation, to one with people from approximately forty-five nationalities regularly attending. During worship different languages were used with songs, dance and prayer in styles that were used ‘back home’. Every aspect of congregational life reflected the cultures from the different ethnicities that made up the congregation.
    This research investigates how this transition occurred. The minutes of both leadership meetings and church members’ meetings were examined along with other relevant documents. Insights and questions arising from the documentary analysis framed discussion for four focus groups and twenty interviews with forty-seven research participants in total. As a leader within the congregation for the whole of the period researched, my own autoethnographic insights contributed into the research.
    Key findings were that people from overseas experienced GBC as a community of faith that was welcoming, safe and fully accepting of them. People who had been born in the UK to parents who had come to the UK from overseas and were a part of GBC, reflected that their experience at GBC had, in their view, given them significant advantages over their peers.
    The conclusion of the research is that there are four interlocking components that seem to have enabled the transition that took place at GBC. Firstly, thinking that decentred Whiteness as an organising concept. The ecclesiological use of a tapestry metaphor for the congregation was crucial in this process. Secondly, attitudes of hospitality and vulnerability enabled the creation of open community. Thirdly, structures that enabled transition, which included radical changes to the nature of the Sunday gatherings and investment in training for leadership. Fourthly, leadership that was willing to learn and serve both GBC and the wider community.
    Date of Award15 Feb 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorJohn R. L. Moxon (Director of Studies) & Julian Gotobed (Co-Supervisor)


    • Multi-ethnic
    • community
    • vulnerability
    • hospitality
    • leadership training
    • food
    • dance
    • worship
    • Baptist church
    • ecclesiology

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